Letting my manager know that I am looking for a new job?
April 6, 2012 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Should I tell my manager that I am looking for another job? I understand that the answer to this question is usually a big NO NO NO. But, special circumstances inside.

For the past three years, I work in City A in my current job that I love. I would like to move to City B for personal reasons. I have carefully considered all other options and there is only one conclusion: I need to be in City B and nowhere else; this decision is not negotiable.

I would have to find a new job in City B as my current company is fairly small (<500 people) and does not have an office in City B. My current company have spent a lot of money and time in training me; however, this is fairly standard for the field that I am working in. They have personally treated me well, although at times my career development have been much more scattershot than it would be in another company. The people have been great and I have enjoyed working with them.

Finding a job in City B should not be a problem as I am working in a technical and highly-specialized field that is in great demand. However, finding the perfect fit could take several months to a year. This is fine.

Main problem: Last year, several people in my company left. One of them joined my Dream Company in City B - let's call her Sarah. I would really like to work there and additionally now I have contacts within Dream Company. I believe my chances at Dream Company will be competitive, but by no means a sure thing.

However, Sarah is also best friends with my manager, and they keep in close contact. Even if I don't submit my resume to Sarah directly, chances are HR will ask Sarah of her opinion of me (as we used to be former coworkers). Then Sarah will let my manager know that I am looking for a new job.

Should I let my manager know upfront, as she would find out from Sarah regardless? how should I phrase this? I think my manager would understand and handle it well, but I'm afraid that the entire process will take longer than I expect and it'll be awkward in the company for a long, long time.

Additional complications:
I will be going on two very expensive overseas "work-research holidays" in June and November. I will almost definitely go on the June holiday, but would like to change jobs before the November holiday comes up and they would be paying for someone who will be leaving the company.
posted by moiraine to Work & Money (17 answers total)
I don't think you should assume that Sarah will tell your manager anything. You're not doing anything wrong; if I were Sarah, I'd feel no particular obligation to tell my friend/your boss anything.
posted by downing street memo at 2:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

If your fear is that Sarah will tell your manager, could you email her in advance of submitting your application and ask her not to? As an added bonus, this will give you a chance to talk with her about your application and get any tips she might have. But she should understand why you'd prefer your current employer not know you're looking, especially since she recently changed jobs herself.
posted by decathecting at 2:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why would Sarah tell your boss? That would be pretty unprofessional of her. Why not approach her directly, tell her you are *considering* a move and putting out feelers to see *if* you might fit in at dream company, and ask her not to mention it to your boss as it is not a done deal? Also, maybe she could help find you a job if you were to ask her.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2012

Response by poster: Sarah and my manager are best friends - they visit each other, call each other from time to time for general chitchat.

Additionally, I don't know whether I can trust Sarah to keep a secret - when Sarah was looking to leave my current company, everyone in our team knew for months and months as she was very open about the entire process.
posted by moiraine at 2:35 PM on April 6, 2012

This week I told my boss I was looking for another job, because I felt bad letting her waste time and energy on my development when I have one foot out the door.

The answer is still NO NO NO. Even if its the right thing to do, job hunting is a long process, and the awkwardness in the meantime is excruciating for both of us.

You should phone Sarah either way. If you know someone on the inside, you should leverage that connection. Ask for her advice, and ask her to be discreet.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 2:36 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have phrased this question the wrong way. What I should have said was:

Given a 99% probability that my manager will find out within weeks*, how can I best mitigate any awkwardness? Should I let my manager know upfront? And if so how should I phrase this?

*either from Sarah (who is incidentally making a work visit in two weeks to my company's headquarters for a meeting! and I will be there! and so will my manager!), or the hiring manager of Dream Company who has my manager's manager number on speed dial, or the fact that the community is the size of my thumb. Please take this as a given.
posted by moiraine at 2:47 PM on April 6, 2012

I assume that the reason that you don't just take the obvious course of action (quit your job and move to City B, then apply for the job at Dream Company) is that you're hoping Dream Company will pay your moving expenses? Consider asking for a signing bonus instead, then, after explaining that you quit your job and moved across the country just in the hope of working for them, or just consider whether you'd still want to work there even if they didn't pay your moving expenses. If the answer's yes, then what's keeping you?

Sure, there's no guarantee that you'll get the job at DreamCo, but if you're in as great demand as you say, you'll have some other job. While it may take "several months to a year" to find the "perfect fit," you certainly don't sit around not working while that's happening. And you'll be in City B.
posted by kindall at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2012

I was going to regale a recent incident where I work but you can imagine that story, so never mind. Basically you'll need to roll the dice, get some sense the chances to get on at the new place then if you decide to go for it ask for a private meeting with both and present it in the most positive idealistic way possible. "Dream job" may not be the most professional phrase but essentially hope to get their sympathy. But be ready for the option of not working at either.
posted by sammyo at 3:01 PM on April 6, 2012

moiraine: "Sarah and my manager are best friends - they visit each other, call each other from time to time for general chitchat. "

Discussing HR matters as part of unrelated "general chitchat" is a BIG NO-NO in the professional world. No matter how good friends they are.

Tell them that they're free to contact your references, but that you'd like some advance warning before they do so. It's a reasonable request to make, and HR people should be accustomed to it.
posted by schmod at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Discussing HR matters as part of unrelated "general chitchat" is a BIG NO-NO in the professional world. No matter how good friends they are.

It happens though, especially if they are best friends. At one of my previous jobs I couldn't believe some of the spats between coworkers that happened because coworkers gossiped unprofessionally about work-related things. I wasn't involved but I definitely am not quick to trust people.

Since Sarah and managers are best friends, it is fairly likely that the manager is going to find out. If Sarah was open about the process and everything worked out fine, is there any reason you feel like that won't work for you as well?

Maybe you could chat with Sarah about how working there is going for her and mention that you are submitting an application. No need to speak to your manager until you get an interview or even an offer. It probably won't be as terrible and awkward as you are thinking it will be.
posted by fromageball at 3:14 PM on April 6, 2012

Best answer: Oh good grief. I'll take a shot at it. Your question is how do you get in front of information if you aren't sure you can keep it private in a job situation.

The answer is that you first address the issue with Sarah. For example, is it possible for you to contact Sarah, state your interest, and ask her to keep your application confidential until it becomes clear that you are a serious candidate? You can put it in the most positive way: that you want to give your boss sufficient heads up and you will not - WILL NOT - leave her in a lurch. And you know she might not be part of the hiring process. But you appreciate that if her company asks her, it might put her in an awkward position of knowing information that your boss doesn't. So you wanted to take the initiative, and do her the courtesy of giving her a head's up. That you are not - once again, not going to leave your boss in a lurch - but you would like to keep this confidential (and that you don't plan to tell your boss) until it becomes clear you are a serious candidate ( e.g., after the interview)

Hopefully she will be understanding and won't tell. But that way, if she does tell your boss because you know, they chat, and you get some grar about it from your boss, you can say that you were going to tell them if you got to the interview stage - were in serious consideration, but before that it seemed premature.

The point is, you convince Sarah that you aren't going to screw over your boss - removing the need for her to 'tell', and you are going to tell her what's going on, so she doesn't need to 'ask' your boss. And then don't tell until after the interview, and it looks like it's a serious possibility.

I'm not sure I've got all of your question, but hopefully this helps.
posted by anitanita at 3:16 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, and one last thing - if you are selected: when you tell your boss, please let her know that you approached Sarah. That way, she knows that if Sarah didn't tell her, it wasn't just because of the HR no-no, but because you asked her to keep it confidential until you were a serious candidate. And then reiterate that you are not - not - going to leave her in a lurch, but do your best to make the transition out as smooth as possible.
posted by anitanita at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to give you a slightly different perspective: your manager probably doesn't care very much. If the turnover rate at your company is, say, 15% then on average one person in seven in your group will end up leaving this year under some circumstances. Some higher number than that may be trying to leave voluntarily (such as yourself), but for whatever reason it won't work out or they will change their mind and stop looking. That isn't a point in time problem specific to you, that is all day, every day problem for your manager. It comes with the territory of being a manager, and there isn't much your manager can do other than try to keep you happy and productive and, if you show up with an offer in hand ready to resign, perhaps make a counter-offer.
posted by kovacs at 3:27 PM on April 6, 2012

Oh man, I just have to say I think the worst thing you could possibly to is ask Sarah not to tell your boss. It would be one thing if Sarah told your boss you were looking for a new job. It would be a million times worse for you if Sarah did that and also told your boss you asked her not to say anything. I would never take that risk.
posted by cairdeas at 4:11 PM on April 6, 2012

As I understand it, you want to be as fair as possible to all parties involved and you assume that Sarah will tell her best friends that you contacted her or the company.

Well, I would assume that Sarah will tell her or at least hint something about it - they have no professional relationship anymore, they are friends! Best friends – no need for professional conduct.

Were I in your shoes, I would decide on a timeframe and let my manager now-ish know that I am leaving the company by July (or whatever) for personal reasons. Relocation to city B was always my dream/my love interest/family/hobby/whatever lives/is there. I would make sure not to leave on bad terms, and I think this is achieved if all parties are informed. If my manager would decide not to send me overseas, I would accept that.
I would just move to city B - even without a job. You can send out the applications (not only to Dream Company) as soon as your manager is aware of your move.
This way there is no awkwardness. Sarah won't feel odd, your manager won't feel wronged and you will know when you move to city B. Okay, maybe it will take a while in city B before you start a new job, are you prepared to get through some time of unemployment?

I understand that this is not the approach most people upthread suggest (strategic, limited information, maximized monetary outcome). But since they are best friends and the whole industry is the size of your thumb - I wouldn't want to take the risk of getting a bad reputation for holding back information and leaving them in a lurch. You decide which approach works for you.

Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 4:33 PM on April 6, 2012

Oftentimes you can request your contacts not be contacted unless there has been an offer made - you should note this on your resume for Sarah's info.

Letting your current bosses know you're looking for a job is a win-lose scenario - you have nothing to gain from it, but they can use it against you. Furthermore, unless you are using work time to work on your resume, you are not doing anything wrong to conceal this, because it's not actually concealing it if it's done on personal time. If you give them sufficient notice that you will be leaving (e.g. two weeks) after you've accepted a job, THAT is what you owe them.

If Sarah tells her friend that you've applied, that's a breech of ethical conduct, and it will be on her shoulders. I'm not saying it won't happen, but you might be surprised. I chat about many things at work, some of it personal, but when I know it can actually damage someone, I don't say a thing. If Sarah is worth working with, as you imply she is, she will know that telling her friend will damage your current standings in the company.

But bottom line - don't say anything. If Sarah says something, Sarah says something, and you can't undo that. If I were your boss, I wouldn't even want to be approached without solid facts (how annoying would it be to hear, "I'm leaving!" "When?" "Oh....some...time in the future....). So wait until you have an actual job and an actual departure date to say anything. Unless you up and leave in the middle of the day, you will not get a "bad reputation". This is business, and this stuff happens in business.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:51 PM on April 6, 2012

I would assume there's a 50-50 chance that yes, Sarah will tell your boss. So think about that when you say or do things. She knows. This could be one of those things where nobody talks about it because open discussion would be weird, especially if it were incorrect, but most people guess it's happening.

I think your best option is to be extra dedicated to work, not you're wrapping things up and have one foot out the door, but like you are nevertheless as devoted as ever to fulfilling all your commitments. Schedule the interviews outside work hours if you can help it. Don't be on Facebook or a resume-esque document. Assume she will be looking for signs you are half out the door and do everything possible not to support that image.
posted by salvia at 9:13 PM on April 6, 2012

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